5 Lessons We Have Learned in Europe: Preparing for Our Professional Careers, One Country at a Time
Living in a new country, on a new continent, has had its perks. We can have fresh made French croissants every morning, wake up to the sound of Luxembourgish Roosters, and not know how to communicate with restaurant waiters almost on the daily. At week 8, we can now start to reflect on the things that we’ve learned, the things that have changed how we think and how we look at the world. Let’s dive in:
Be Flexible If you think that your initial plan to get to the airport is actually going to be how you get there, think again. Public transportation at rush hour is almost always late, trains are frequently cancelled, and depending on a bus to get you to the train station before the train leaves is never a good idea. Living through this travel nightmare has forced us to embrace the phrase, “be flexible.” When everything seems to be crashing down, and the thoughts of “We are not going to make it to Spain, we are not going to make it to Spain” begin to set in, it is important to stay relaxed and be flexible. Be willing to get on a different train or bus, even if you do not totally know what the plan will be when you get there. As long as you keep moving forward, you will always be closer to your destination than you would be if you had not been flexible.
Get Lost No, not in “I do not want to see you anymore” kind of way. Sometimes, the most beautiful view is down this random ally off the beaten path. Take that ally. It can be tough sometimes walking into an unfamiliar situation, but at the end of the day, experiencing that uncomfort will make you a better person. You may be asked one day to head a new project or come up with a new idea to push the company forward. Instead of playing it safe, maybe take a new, unfamiliar, or maybe even uncomfortable approach to your problem. While this could lead you to a white painted brick wall covered in graffiti, it just may take you to most incredible view of the Adriatic that you’ve ever seen.
Always Be Early Leave time for the inevitable issues that you will face. The train won’t always show up, the bus driver won’t wait (even if he sees you running towards him), and the flight crew will close the doors if you’re not there. After traveling to nearly 14 cities in just about 2 months, we have learned (the hard way) that being early isn’t just something that you should do when you’re going to work. In the same way that these people won’t wait, neither will your clients, your boss, or anyone that’s counting on you. This is a lesson that we’ve heard for nearly all our lives, but traveling has been a strict reinforcement of it.
Do Not Rely on Excuses Yes, sometimes you want to blame a missed flight on the long line at security, but at some point, you are responsible in some way too. It is so easy to simply say it was out of your control or there was nothing you could have done to prevent that from happening, but the moment you are able to recognize you are in control of changing things, simply put, everything changes. Taking ownership of failure is hard. However, how will you learn if you can’t own up to it? Maybe you could have arrived at the airport thirty minutes earlier, or spent ten extra minutes trying to find a train with more than a two-minute layover. After 8 weeks into traveling and many failures later, we can truthfully say that the lessons we have learned have led to two our seamlessly planned weekends this past Saturday and Sunday.
Networking Does Not Stop at the U.S. Border Being in a new country with 80 other American students has been great, but many of the lessons we’ve learned have been from people we didn’t expect to meet. Whether they’re the host families we are living with, the European professors we have, or the clerk working at the local grocery store, you never know where someone can help you find a passion or connect you with the right people.
No matter how amazing the pictures or videos or Snapchat stories look, being abroad is definitely hard sometimes. It forces you to grow incredibly quickly in a new (and likely uncomfortable) environment. However, as tough as struggling to communicate with the cab driver may be, there is no better way to learn how we make decisions in stressful situations, how we deal with missing our $200 flight (and consequently having to re-book an even more expensive one), and how we essentially go about our daily life. In a short seven weeks, we will come back to the states ready to take on the working world with a better ability to adapt to changes in our jobs, communicate with new coworkers that may have different ideas, and overall be better decision makers.
- Maggie Sullivan & Matt Carey
Incoming Director of New Member Development & Director of Market Research